Association RevUP is a podcast presented by the Professionals for Association Revenue. The following post is based on Episode 2: RevUP Sales Leadership with Jodi Ashcroft and Carrie McIntyre. Check out the full episode wherever you get your podcast or at the link below.

Effective sales leadership requires ongoing development of both individuals and the team as a whole. Prioritizing access to relevant resources, training and feedback all contribute to a sales team’s performance, but a notable study reveals there is one trait that can impact a team’s success more than any other - psychological safety.

In 2012, Google conducted a study aimed at understanding what made a team successful. The Project Aristotle researchers examined factors like team structure, member personalities, reward structures, educational backgrounds and more. What they found was that successful teams varied widely in these areas and others. According to researcher Abeer Dubey, “the ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.”

The team eventually discovered what did matter, however, and it was the presence of psychological safety. Jodi Ashcraft is the Director of Media and Event Sales of the American Psychological Association (APA) and says psychological safety is a top priority for her team.

“This is one of the most important things to me as a sales leader… to have everyone on your team be able to come to work, be themselves, contribute, feel like they can be innovative, and know they're not going to be judged,” she says.

Team psychological safety means team members can express ideas, take risks and make mistakes without fear of negative consequences. Culture expert and author Jamie Notter says it’s a key component to innovation – something sales teams must do continuously as their industries evolve and change.

“It means I have an environment where I can say things and I'm not afraid that I will be punished or ridiculed for it,” Notter says. “So that I know that I will say, ‘You know, I tried this thing, and it totally didn't work. And I feel like I let you down on this.’ And people can say, ‘I hear you on that. I don't think you let me down. I appreciate you bringing this up.’”

Sales leaders can evaluate psychological safety among their own team by examining if new ideas are welcomed and occur without anxiety over potential failure. Additionally, Ashcraft says they can cultivate this safe environment by acknowledging their own shortcomings to their teams while also considering the role financial stability plays in innovation.

For instance, if revenue producers are encouraged to experiment but risk losing bonuses or commissions from failed ideas, the environment does not truly support psychological safety. In the case of the APA, Ashcraft notes their non-commission structure allows creativity in problem solving without jeopardizing livelihoods.

“We're not in a commission-based environment. When sales are down, we can solve that, without it directly impacting livelihoods and bottom lines,” Ashcraft says. I'm a big fan of bonuses for the whole team when something goes right.”

To learn more about psychological safety and the 5 ways sales leaders can support their team’s work, listen to Episode 2 of Association RevUP, a podcast from the Professionals for Association Revenue.

Association RevUP: The Podcast That Will Get Everyone Talking about Revenue Health!

In this entertaining and educational series, association leaders and team members become active learners on a path to building an association that prioritizes the transformative impact of revenue at all levels.

Episode 2: RevUP Sales Leadership | Jodi Ashcraft, Carrie McIntyre
In this episode, explore 5 ways a sales leader’s actions can show that the work of their sales team is in fact valued.